Thanksgiving is a holiday about indulgence. Although the United States of today suffers from mass obesity and a deficit of nutritious foods caused by economic distortions in the food industry and poor eating choices, unreliable and limited calories once limited the daily activities of all peoples around the world to food production. Harvest Festivals like Thanksgiving were some of the few times people could indulge in excess and leisure after they reaped the rewards of their labor. Today, the indulgence remains, but a lack of scarcity for many makes it difficult to comprehend the significance of their indulgences on Thanksgiving.
Under President George Washington, the fledgling United States celebrated the first official Thanksgivings on November 26, 1789 at a time of great triumphs and struggles. Indeed, Thanksgiving was a well-earned celebration for all former-Colonists as well as Americans in need of a morale boost during the Civil War when Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Since that time, Thanksgiving has become less about triumph over scarcity and more showing thanks for the bountiful inheritance build by our Forefathers as well as the fruits of our labors.
When nearly 150 Pilgrims and American tribesmen gathered in 1621 for the first Thanksgiving feast in what would become the wealthiest, most powerful, and most influential nation in history, the three-day celebration was truly about triumph over scarcity and hardships of all kinds. It was also about showing thanks to the natives who saw the refugees in need and came to their rescue. Ultimately, the arrival of Europeans in the Americas proved devastating to the native populations, yet the compassion and altruism that defined the saviors of the Pilgrims can still be seen in all the goods the United States and its People have done throughout the world.
Sadly, the Thanksgiving of 2015 is overshadowed by a potential war with Russia, economic uncertainty, the Paris Terrorist Attacks, and the Syrian Refugee Crisis, among many other global crises. Although Western nations have the ability to safeguard themselves and should take solid precautions to prevent terrorists from entering their homelands, caution does not mean abandoning the tired, poor, and huddled masses of those facing devastation. The people who showed pity for the European refugees may have come to regret their decision when it cost their children everything, but letting the innocent Pilgrims would have destroyed who they were.
The developed world fears the violence and destitution of places like the Middle East to the point those living in these harsh conditions are blamed for being victimized by their circumstances. Because most in the developed world do not understand the psychology of disadvantage, their plight appears to be the result of character flaws. Faced with death from violence or starvation, people no longer see choices: they must react or die. Syrian Refugees have gone so far to sew their mouths shut in protest. Although too painful and gruesome to even contemplate for those living in safety and comfort, it shows the pain and desperation of these people. They are not flooding into Europe out of choice; they are fleeing from greater suffering and devastation.
With the plight of the Syrian Refugees and the destitute throughout the world in mind, it is easier to comprehend the importance of Thanksgiving. Modern-day Thanksgiving feasts are largely about overindulgence for the sake of gluttony, but indulgence can also be a means to help people recognize all that they have. Indulgence can be a way for people to reflect on times of scarcity. Lacking scarcity makes it difficult to understand the significance of Thanksgiving; however, reflecting on the scarcity faced by millions of people around the world reminds us that our ability to indulge gives us great cause to be thankful.
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